The holidays flew by us way too quickly and left the wind chill in its wake.

Unfortunately, with all the hustle and bustle this time of year, we tend to forget how dangerous the weather can be. It would make sense to stay indoors, and for the most part we do….except for New Years. All rules go out the door with this party. The most exciting night of the year can sometimes be the coldest night of the year. And the party ends up outside. And do we don a ski mask, goggles, gloves, galoshes, thermal underwear, winter coat and earmuffs? No. That would make the most unsexy New Year’s outfit.

Throw some alcohol into the mix and this can be a deadly combination. The CDC estimates that 1300 deaths occur each year due to hypothermia. So what is hypothermia?

What is hypothermia?

Hypothermia is a dangerous drop in body temperature and can occur in minutes. Human body temperature averages around 98.6 degrees F. But hypothermia starts setting in at 95 degrees F with shivering, increase respiratory and heart rate, and even confusion. We forget that glucose stores get used up quickly so hypoglycemia can ensue as well, making matters worse, especially in someone who is intoxicated. Frostbite can occur as blood flow decreases to the tips of the ears, fingers, nose and toes. As hypothermia progresses, the shivering and muscle contractions strengthen, skin and lips become pale, and confusion worsens. This can lead to severe hypothermia, eventually causing heart failure and/or respiratory failure, leading to a coma and if not reversed, death.

Hypothermia can mimic looking drunk

Someone who is hypothermic may slur their speech, stammer around and appear uncoordinated.  This sounds identical to your drunk buddy on New Year’s Eve. Unfortunately, this can be deadly as many hypothermic partiers get written off as being drunk.

So if you suspect hypothermia, call for medical assistance. Anyone you think is eliciting signs of hypothermia should be brought indoors, put in dry clothes, covered in warm blankets, and then wait for paramedics to arrive. It’s important to try to warm the central parts of the body such as head, neck, chest, and groin, but avoid direct electric blanket contact with the skin and active rubbing if the skin is showing signs of frostbite.

Why not use hot water to warm up a hypothermic individual?

Hot water will be too caustic and can cause burns. Remember, the body is shunting blood away from the ears, fingers, toes, hands and feet to warm the heart, brain and other vital organs. The skin will be in a vulnerable state during hypothermia and frostbite and will burn the under perfused skin.

Alcohol increases the risk of hypothermia

We’re outside in the cold, not bundling up, dancing, sweating, becoming dehydrated. Add alcohol to the mix, and its deadly. Here’s the scoop on alcohol toxicity.

Preventing hypothermia

When it comes to hypothermia, the best thing you can do is prevention. It’s the biggest party of the year so prepare yourself by doing the following:

  • Wear multiple layers of clothing.
  • Bring an extra pair of dry socks.
  • Avoid getting wet (i.e. falling off a boat, getting splashed with champagne)
  • Change your clothes if you worked up a sweat dancing.
  • Check with your medical provider if some of your medical conditions (i.e. hypothyroid) or medications (i.e. narcotics, and sedatives)  put you at risk for hypothermia.
  • Avoid alcohol intoxication.
  • Keep an eye on your more vulnerable buddies who include children, older individuals, and those with intellectual disabilities.

 

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Daliah Wachs is a guest contributor to GCN news, her views and opinions, medical or otherwise, if expressed, are her own. Doctor Wachs is an MD,  FAAFP and a Board Certified Family Physician.  The Dr. Daliah Show , is nationally syndicated M-F from 11:00 am - 2:00 pm and Saturday from Noon-1:00 pm (all central times) at GCN.

Published in Health

Well, winter & those pesky cold months are upon us and, just like clockwork, old Mother Nature has decided its time for a nap. Now, if you live in a Northern state, like I do, or you're just concerned about cold weather, you may find yourself asking - is my car ready? Well, here is a short list of things you can (mostly) check yourself to see if you're good to go for a short drive or out for that long road trip to Thanksgiving dinner.

Just check these five things:

First: Check your oil level. Make sure you check the level with the engine both cold and warm. Look online or refer to your owner’s manual for additional assistance.

Second: Make sure your coolant (antifreeze) is the correct mixture, that the level is full and that the overflow area is filled to the line. You never want to open the filler cap when the engine is hot so make sure you check it when the engine is cold. Personally, I prefer to check with the engine running but you don't have to if you don't want to. If you do not have the correct tool to gauge the freezing or boiling point of your antifreeze, you can buy a tester for approx. $15 at any Walmart or an auto parts store. For convenience, most oil change shops or even a Tires Plus, offer this service.

Third: Make sure all four tires are filled with air to the correct point. Check to see that they all have good tread depth, that no cords (wires) are showing and that there are no bald spots. No one wants to blow a tire in the cold, worst of all change a tire on the side of the road in the cold. Good tread depth will help you keep control on cold surfaces in the rain, snow & slush.

Fourth: Make sure your battery is in good condition. This might mean the difference between a safe quick trip to your destination and standing alongside the road out in the cold, holding a pair of jumper cables.

Places like Batteries Plus can check your battery condition, free of charge.

Finally: Check your transmission fluid. Fill it up and make sure that the old fluid does not smell like a burnt pile of garbage. If it does, take it in for a flush and change. Remember that not all cars have a dipstick to check the transmission fluid so you may have to go to Jiffy Lube or Tires Plus. Keep in mind, some of these places charge for this service, so make sure to ask for a winter package or a group rate and you might get a discount.

And that's it! Five quick tips as the title promised. But, that means its time for me to sign off and get back to my day job.

Safe travels, and keep it on all four tires!

 

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Lee Wickenhauser is a guest contributor to GCN news. His views and opinions, if expressed, are his own. Lee is a full time ad man / part time motorist-mechanic-maniac!

 

Published in News & Information